Friday, October 21, 2005

Hope vs. Despair

This has been a common theme for me of late. For every news story I read that gives me hope, another one causes me despair. I feel so horrible for the victims of the earthquake that ravaged Pakistan.

“Think bold, think big, think creatively,” he said. “I don’t know how you evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from the Himalayas, but the most effective military alliance in the world should know that.”
That's what Jan Egeland, the UN’s top relief official, said as pleaded for NATO to help the half a million survivors trapped in the Himalayas without aid.

What is wrong with us? We can find the time and money to build weapons and plan wars, but we have no plans for rescuing fellow human beings when monstrous tragedies strike. The US's fig leaf of FEMA was ripped away, showing a poorly run agency that was caught off guard as thousands of our fellow citizens were trapped in Louisiana and Mississippi by Hurricane Katrina. I suspect a similar tragedy unfolded after the Tsunami of last December, but we didn't hear about it or see it. Now, I'm reading about the tragedy in the wake of the terrible earthquake and wondering if maybe this is hell, right here, on this planet.
LATE at night, Zainab Sahib often wakes up in the dark, crying for her mother.

Zainab is 6. She was found in the rubble of her mud house after the Kashmir earthquake. Now she is safe in hospital, her left arm amputated, her head covered in bandages.

But she cries in vain. Her parents and siblings all died in the quake.
Maybe. But always, alongside the horror, is the beauty of nature, of man's creativity, of love. The happiest sites for me are people getting married - a day filled with so much love and hope; a museum, where art is as revered as a Madonna in a Catholic Church; a dolphin swimming off the coast, proof positive that we haven't yet polluted our planet beyond repair.

This week has brought many horrible and hopeful stories to light, and sometimes its the same story. Like the release today of the GAO's Report on Electronic Voting:

Electronic voting systems hold promise for improving the efficiency and accuracy of the election process by automating a manual process, providing flexibility for accommodating voters with special needs, and implementing controls to avoid errors by voters and election workers. However, in a series of recent reports, election officials, computer security experts, citizen advocacy groups, and others have raised significant concerns about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems, citing instances of weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate system version control, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management, and vague or incomplete standards, among other issues.
It's great to see the government finally say hey, these are real issues that need to be dealt with. That gave me hope. But reading further, it appeared that a lot of faith was being placed in--get this--voluntary guidelines the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) is producing. Even if they're good, what's the point if they're only voluntary? And beyond that, the final version of those recommendations isn't coming until December 2007, in other words, too late to have any effect on the next Presidential election. I mean, come on! We have to wait seven years after Florida to figure out how to run elections? As much as I want to say government can be a force for good, in this instance I think the EAC is a big waste of money if all that will come out of this in the end are voluntary guildelines.

Will you join me in writing your Representatives and Senators and asking that, now that the GAO has officially acknowledged there are serious issues, that we come up with a top down plan to guarantee that states and counties follow the guidelines we're paying big tax dollars to lay out?

Write your Representative at this link: Go to to find your Senators and contact them as well. This is ridiculous. We can do something about this. We can live in despair, or we can be the force that provides hope to others. Good luck to you.


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I will join you in writing my Representatives and Senators. Support the cause.

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2:47 PM  

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